So, dear readers, we come to September 11th, 9/11 watch, the big one. Weighted down with historical significance. How could it not be?
It has deep military significance. After all, it was on September 11th 1297 that the Scottish defeated the English at Stirling Bridge (does this set a precedent for next week’s independence vote?), it was on September 11th 1709 that John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, was victorious against the French at Malplaquet and it was also on September 11th that George Washington and his troops were defeated by the British in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine, where the Stars and Stripes flag was carried in battle for the first time.
I am not sure what was going on at the Battle of Brandywine but I’d imagine it was sponsored by Nurofen, and featured the American soldiers tucking into a full English and complaining about their headaches the following morning. But then, I suppose you’d have a headache if the British had just bashed you over the ears with a selection of its finest muskets. As for John “call me Randy” Churchill, this is the man who, his wife Sarah wrote “returned from the wars today and did pleasure me in his top boots”, so he was clearly in some rush to sort out the French sharpish on September 11th, as he was unable to contain his Ducal urges.
In other, non-military news, September 11th is the birthday of such international luminaries as Harry Connick Jr, Brian DePalma and D H Lawrence. Harry Connick Jr was famous for writing “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and DH Lawrence was famous for providing the soundtrack to “When Harry Met Sally”. In his version, Harry Loves Sally, and Sally Loves Harry, but she cannot be with him because she has to stay behind in Derbyshire grappling with sexual frustration whilst liberating herself by learning to use a typewriter. Occasionally she is allowed the sheer delight of a tin bath, but mostly she eats coal and frets. Jessica Mitford was also born on September 11th and so was the short story writer O Henry (but not in the same room).
It was on September 11th 1962 that The Beatles recorded “Love Me Do”, on September 11th 1987 that Prince officially opened Paisley Park, and also, astonishingly, on September 11th 1977 that David Bowie and Bing Crosby recorded their duet of “The Little Drummer Boy”. On September 11th 1951 Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the English Channel from both directions, whilst in Chile President Salvador Allende died on September 11th 1973 in revolt led by the armed forces. It was on September 11th 2005 that the last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip and it was on September 11th 2003 that Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died after being stabbed in a Stockholm department store.
September 11th 1972 saw San Franciscans delight in the first day of operation of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, whilst September 11th 1978 featured the last death of a person from smallpox. On September 11th 1802 France got so annoyed with the Kingdom of Piedmont that they annexed it, and on September 11th 1792 six men broke into a house and successfully stole the Hope Diamond and other French crown jewels.
There are many interesting things that did indeed happen on September 11th. But perhaps two things that are especially poignant in view of the anniversary of the World Trade Centre attacks. The first was an observation made by H M Tomlinson when he looked up into the night sky during the first year of World War One. On September 11th 1915 he was at home in the evening, when a zeppelin attack broke out in his neighbourhood. This war, the first to be held to some extent in the skies, brought home to him more than ever that aircraft production had changed the nature of war, but also the increasing power it manifested to place civilians under attack:
“War now would be not only between soldiers. In future wars the place of honour would be occupied by the infants, in their cradles. Men will now creep up….and drop bombs on the sleepers beneath, for greater glory of some fine figment or other.” Up until this point, notes Tomlinson, the security of Britain “…had been based on the goodwill or indifference of our fellow-creatures everywhere” and that, after the zeppelin attack in his quiet London suburb “...something had gone from it for ever. It was not, and never could be again, as once we had known it.”
By September 1609, Henry Hudson had been at sea for 5 months. The merchants of the Dutch East India Company had selected him to find a easterly passage to Asia. He left Amsterdam on 4 April, sailing towards Norway and finally reaching the Grand Banks, south of Newfoundland on 2nd July. By 4th August he was down at Cape Cod, from where he sailed south to the Chesapeake Bay. Despite one of his crew being killed by Indians with an arrow to his neck in early September, Hudson sailed on into New York Harbour and up the Hudson River, and discovered a new island, at the edge of the new world, on the morning of September 11th. It was called Manhattan.
Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this. This blog is updated every other Thursday, so we look forward to seeing you again on Thursday 25th September.